The name Archon is certainly not new to anyone that has been playing computer games since the mid 80s. Released in 1982, it became one of the most popular games of that era, and is still a classic today. It was a well balanced mixture of arcade action, chess-style strategy, and AD&D style monsters and spells. Very wisely, SSI released a new version of Archon in 1992. Although the graphics have gotten a full scale make over, the heart of the game is still there, and it is still as addictive as ever.
Archon Ultra is actually chess meets D&D - you move your pieces around a chess board A La chess, but when a piece enters an occupied space, it does not mean sudden death - the two monsters have it out, and the winner of the fight, that envolves magical weapons and special powers, occupies the space. Like in chess, there are two sides - the white side, representing the "good guys", and the black side, representing the evil side. Each side has its share of monsters and fighters, each with their own special magical abilities. For example, The Phoneix, which is the white side's strongest piece, has a "homing feather" - a small feather like missle attack that moves toward its enemy - as well as the ability to turn into a huge fire and burn anyone within range to death. Its arch-rival, the evil dragon, has a fire breathing attack, and a poisonus gas attack. Each creature has a certain number of hit points, as well as a "Block Per Turn" speed, which represents the number of blocks he can move, per turn. Some creatures can fly, and thus can pass over other creatures, while some can only walk on land. Also, each side has a magician that can cast a small number of spells. Although these are not very useful, they add some variety to the game. The spells include Summon Elemental, which brings forth an Elemental to fight one of your enemy's creatures, Imprison, which denies any action from a creature, and Revive, which brings a dead character back to life. These spells can only be cast by the Wizard or Sorceress, and each can be used only once per game.
Combat is the heart of Archon Ultra, and is handled very nicely. There are three different combat fields - lake, lava and rocky. Flying creatures are not affected by landscape, but ground creatures suffer heavy damages from lava pools and acid lakes, and are slowed down in water. I found defeating Non-flyers easily, by bringing my flying creature right on top of a lava pool, and leaving the enemy no choice but to enter the pool, and die. Each creature uses two attack buttons for its two special attacks, and once you attack, you must wait a certain amount of time for the attack to regenerate. By holding down the attack key, one can decide where to release the attack, how long it will last, or even aim it using the creature control keys.
For its time the graphics are great - each creature is rendered very beautifully, with attention to every detail. The animation of a creature moving from one place to another is excellent, especially in creatures such as the Unicorn and the Phoneix. The three different battle scenes are also very nicely rendered, yet not very special. Also, every time two enemies fight it out, you see two digitized portraits of the two enemies. My favorite portrait was the shapeshifter - a black ooze with different parts of the assorted white creatures sticking out, such as the unicorn's horn and the phoneix's head. I'm not going to compare the graphics to the original Archon, which featured 2-D black and white graphics.. I'll just say that the improvement in graphics makes a BIG difference.
You can play Archon Ultra against the computer, or against a friend. There are two human play modes - you can move the pieces AND fight the battles, or, if you are a strategy freak that has no skill for shoot 'em ups, you can have the computer fight for you, and just control the pieces on the chessboard.
Overall, Archon Ultra is the just as good as the original Archon, with the addition of fine graphics, a bit of sound support and mouse support. It's addicting as ever!If you didn't play the original Archon, here's your chance to relive part of computer game history, with a terrific strategy and action game, and you don't have to suffer with 2-D monochrome graphics.